Sometimes, life’s important lessons come while we’re in a hurry. On a chilly morning at 11, I was arriving at my hair stylist’s salon that’s located directly behind a popular café. Thoughts of a hot cup of pumpkin spice coffee with cream and sugar lured me off course. I darted into the coffee shop and quickly placed my order.

As I handed my $20 gift card to the young cashier, I glanced at the door as a thin, 6-foot-tall, frail octogenarian with a brush cut and glasses slowly entered. With determination, he made his way to the register. I stepped aside so he could place his order.

My parents passed quite early in their lives, so I occasionally wonder what they would have been like if they had lived to be this man’s age. Besides that, I’ve always had a soft spot for the elderly. I love their humor and unexpected comments. Let’s be honest – age has its rank. Who’s going to correct Grandma for speaking her mind or Grandpa for occasionally telling an inappropriate joke?

I studied the elderly gentleman for a moment when the idea of a “random act of kindness” hit me. A voice within me quietly came to life as I whispered to the cashier, “I’ll pay for his coffee.” The cashier silently nodded and I handed him my gift card again.

As the elderly gentleman fumbled for his wallet, his voice lowered and he said in a rather embarrassed way, “I don’t know if I have enough money on my gift card.” I knew I was into this transaction for better or for worse. The cashier’s eyes met mine as we waited for his order.

I nervously glanced behind the gentleman to see if he was with a group of others who might slow down my order. Fortunately, he wasn’t. He ordered a breakfast sandwich with ham. When the cashier informed him that ham had been discontinued but bacon was available, he stammered a bit. I thought of my hair appointment and knew the clock was ticking since the cashier hadn’t had a chance to start my coffee. After deliberating for a minute, the gentleman placed his order for a bacon sandwich and coffee. His slow-moving, shaky hands searched for his gift card. He never saw mine go through the machine.

The young cashier disappeared and returned with my coffee. As I thanked him and turned away, I quickly looked up at the elderly gentleman who had finally located his card. In a low voice I said, “I took care of your bill, sir. Enjoy your breakfast,” and joyfully rushed out. I was happy to be on my way.

I got in the car and reprimanded myself for being in such a hurry. What if he wanted to say something to me? I was now 10 minutes late for my appointment. But I took a deep breath, got out of my car and went back in. The tall figure was waiting for his order and talking to the grinning cashier who patiently listened. I overheard the elderly man, quite surprised at what had just occurred, exclaim quietly, “I can’t believe someone would do such a kind thing!”

Senior citizens aren’t the only ones who make unexpected comments. My heart pounded. I nervously smiled as I approached his side, unsure what I was going to say. I stood on my tiptoes and he lowered his head to hear me.

Words poured out as I whispered to him, “My parents aren’t here anymore, so I can’t treat them to breakfast. It looks like you’ll have to take their place today. Enjoy it.”

Linda Jenkins Costanzo lives in Clarence.